I originally wrote this post as an entry in my own personal journal a few years ago, when I was asked (for the umpteenth time) what I was doing for Christmas, and why I wasn’t going home to see the family.
Because it is rather long, I have broken it up into three parts – Part One can be found below, and Parts Two and Three can be found by clicking on the thumbnail graphic at the bottom of each post in the series.
Some of you may find that you can identify with what I say here. Maybe you’ve experienced the same things yourself.
For others, perhaps this will give you some insight into what it feels like to be the only Deaf person at the holiday dinner table.
“I hate the holidays.”
I’m sure you have heard this expression before. You might have even felt that way yourself on occasion.
Let’s face it…sometimes the holiday season really sucks.
That period of time starting around mid-November and going on until the first week of January can be a really stressful time on many of us, including me. When I start seeing all those decorations going up, my stomach gets that sinking feeling, and a bad taste develops in my mouth.
No, I’m not trying to be Scrooge. I just find it really hard to get into the holiday spirit.
Why is that? I suppose there are a lot of reasons. To begin with, I think the holidays have become rather superficial and commercial. They seem to basically be about money – about who spends more of it on the bigger and better presents. And while this is supposedly the time of giving, it seems most people’s minds are more focused on receiving. Even the most generous of souls seem to turn into greedy, “gimme gimme” assholes at this time of the year. As for the true meaning of the holiday spirit – peace on earth and goodwill to men – that doesn’t seem to be anywhere to be found these days.
Certainly this is enough to drive anyone crazy, but I suppose that there is another reason for my distaste for this time of the year.
The holidays can be…isolating.
Most of us think of the holidays as that period of time when we renew our bonds with family. In fact, it may be the only time of the year when (for better or for worse) we do so. It’s that time when we all gather together at Grandma’s house for the meeting of the Clans; where everyone dresses up and drags their brood along for the dinner feast where the kids go screaming all over the house while the adults sit at the big table and discuss the Meaning of Life.
But for some of us, such annual events serve not to strengthen the bonds between ourselves and our family members, but only to emphasize the differences.
I’m one such individual.
You see, I’m Deaf.
My family isn’t.
It’s not just that my entire family happens to be hearing…they are Non-Deaf. They don’t even understand the Deaf World, let alone embrace it as a part of their life. Nobody in my family signs. Nobody in my family understands what it means to be Deaf. Nobody in my family has ever made a real effort to understand.
And as far as they are concerned, Ginny isn’t Deaf. Ginny “has a hearing loss.” It doesn’t matter that I have been using sign language for over twenty-five years, that I am a graduate of Gallaudet University, or that I have spent much of my life living and working in the Deaf Community. When I come home, I am expected to function like a Hearing Person.
A Hearing Person with hearing aids, that is.